Selah Drug Distributor Who Sold Pound Quantities of Methamphetamine and Fentanyl in the Yakima Valley Sentenced to More than Eleven Years in Federal Prison
Spokane, Washington - Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that Christopher Bruce Gooch, 46, of Spokane, Washington, was sentenced after pleading guilty to Robbery Affecting Commerce. U.S. Senior District Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson imposed a sentence of 48 months in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. When imposing the sentence, U.S. Senior Judge Peterson noted Gooch’s lifelong criminal history beginning at age 11.
According to court documents, on the night of August 2, 2022, Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) were conducting surveillance of suspected drug traffickers at the Oxford Suites in Spokane Valley. During that surveillance, just before midnight, agents observed one of the suspected drug traffickers arrive at the motel carrying multiple duffle bags.
A short time later, surveilling agents observed a unique van arrive in the motel parking lot. A man, later identified as Dominic Shears, was observed getting out of the van and entering the front door of the motel. Shears then opened a side door to the motel. At this point, two other men, later identified as Christopher Gooch and Christopher Jones, got out of the parked van and went into the motel through the now open side entrance.
A few minutes later, agents observed the same three men carrying what appeared to be the same duffle bags leave through a side door of the motel. All three men got into the van, and quickly left the area.
Around the same time, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) received a 911 call from the motel reporting that a motel guest had been robbed at gunpoint. The caller also told Sheriff’s Deputies that three suspects with masks left the motel in a van.
Believing the suspected drug trafficker may have been the victim of the robbery, The surveilling agents followed the van and advised SCSO and the Spokane Police Department (SPD) that law enforcement was following those believed to be involved in the robbery. SPD joined in the pursuit, and when the van reached downtown Spokane, the driver of the van briefly stopped and both Gooch and Jones got out of the vehicle and attempted to flee on foot. Jones was carrying a duffle bag as he attempted to flee the scene. Ultimately, both men were apprehended. Inside the duffle bag, SPD officers recovered approximately 1.5 pounds of methamphetamine, 400 grams of fentanyl-laced pills, and 150 grams of heroin.
Around the time SPD officers apprehended and detained Gooch and Jones, SPD also attempted a to conduct a traffic stop on the van, which Shears was driving. Instead of stopping, however, Shears eluded police and ultimately fired shots at police, after crashing his van into a building in downtown Spokane. Shears then engaged in a multiple-hour stand-off with law enforcement. The standoff ended when Shears came out of the front windshield area of the vehicle and fired at the police. Police returned fire, and Shears died of his injuries.
During interviews after the robbery, investigators learned Shears was a customer of the suspected drug trafficking law enforcement was surveilling. In fact, Shears placed a large order with the supplier, intending to rob the supplier. Shears then recruited Jones, who in turn recruited Gooch, to help with the robbery. When they arrived at the motel, all three men donned ski masks. Gooch remained in the hall, while Jones and Shears entered the supplier’s motel room and demanded the drugs. During the robbery, Shears had a black, semi-automatic firearm, which he put to the supplier’s head. Jones and Shears then grabbed two duffle bags from the room and left. A woman in the room was able to escape, run down the hall, and alert hotel staff.
Jones pleaded guilty to one count of Robbery Affecting Commerce on May 2, 2023, and was sentenced to 63 months in prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release.
“I am thankful for the dedicated members of law enforcement who put themselves in harm’s way every day to keep our streets secure and our communities safe. This case is a stark reminder of the dangerous nexus of drug trafficking and violent crime,” stated U.S. Attorney Waldref. “The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to partnering with our federal, state and local partners to prosecute violent offenders and build safer, stronger, and more resilient communities.”
Assistant United States Attorney Caitlin Baunsgard, who prosecuted the case, stated, “Drug trafficking is most often characterized as a non-violent offense. However, based on my 15 years investigating and prosecuting drug trafficking crime, this not accurate. This case is a stark reminder of the violence that frequently occurs with the illegal distribution of controlled substances. The US Attorney’s Office is committed to supporting all our law enforcement partners and the important work they do for our community. Despite many obstacles, they put their lives on the line in pursuit of community safety. I applaud their dedication.”
“This case is a chilling reminder of the violence that accompanies drug trafficking and resolve of the agencies to protect our communities from these violent offenders,” said David F. Reames, Special Agent in Charge, DEA Seattle Field Division.
“This is a well-deserved sentence,” said ATF Seattle Special Agent in Charge Jonathan T. McPherson. “Mr. Gooch’s actions, along with those of his co-criminals, put the lives of area residents in great danger. We appreciate the support the Spokane Police Department and Sheriff’s Office’s support.”
This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, the Spokane Police Department, and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Caitlin Baunsgard.
Public Affairs Specialist